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Vassallo Builders presented sole bid for €25 million University residence

First plans submitted for project show eight blocks, one of them rising to 14 storeys

james
James Debono
12 August 2016, 10:50am
A request for proposals issued by the University of Malta in 2015 attracted only one bid from Vassallo Builders, which has now formed a new subsidiary called Campus Residence Malta Ltd
A request for proposals issued by the University of Malta in 2015 attracted only one bid from Vassallo Builders, which has now formed a new subsidiary called Campus Residence Malta Ltd
A request for proposals issued by the University of Malta in 2015 attracted only one bid for “the concession, design, building and operation of a University Residence and Community Complex” on land bought by the University of Malta in 2013. 

The bid was made by Vassallo Builders which has now formed a new subsidiary called Campus Residence Malta Ltd. 

A letter of acceptance for the construction and operation of the new residence and complex was signed in June by former rector Juanito Camilleri and Pio Vassallo, CEO of Vassallo Builders Group.

The €25 million complex to be built on 10,589  square metres, will comprise an eight-block student village, offering over 600 beds and a number of outlets and facilities situated around a central plaza. The complex will also house the University of Malta’s child care centre and the University’s language school and will include a four level underground car park for 450 cars.

A development application presented to the Planning Authority this week shows eight blocks varying in height between two and 14 floors above street level. 

The land in question is fully located within development zones consisting of an abandoned garden centre and a residence.

A spokesperson for the university confirmed that four parties expressed their interest in the Request for Proposals (RFP) and collected the document against a cost of €2,000. 

But Vassallo Builders was the only party who submitted a proposal by October 22, 2015, the closing date for the call.

The complex will house the University of Malta's child care centre and the University's language school and will include a four level underground car park
The complex will house the University of Malta's child care centre and the University's language school and will include a four level underground car park
An RFP instead of a tender

Asked by MaltaToday why an RFP was issued instead of a formal tender, the university’s spokesperson replied that a tender is normally issued when “the specifications are defined and the costs are incurred by the party issuing the tender”. 

“A Request for Proposals is issued when the party carrying out the works will have to finance the investment.”

The RFP document’s format was based on the Contracts Department’s template with modifications to reflect the requirements of the project. 

“Notwithstanding the fact that UoM received only one proposal, the proposal was evaluated against the option of UoM undertaking the project itself. The proposal was evaluated by a team of experts”.

According to international norms an RFP is considered to be an invitation to enter into negotiations. 

When the successful party is chosen, they are granted the opportunity to negotiate with the owner of the land before being awarded the contract.

In contrast, a call for tenders is a more formal, detailed process that gives the bidders the assurance that if they put forward the best bid, judged according to the criteria set out in the tender, they must in accordance with the law, be awarded the job.

The RFP procedure was lately used by the government to issue a concession on the ITS land. The Seabank group was chosen as the preferred bidder for the project and the government has commenced negotiations. An RFO was also issued to choose the consortium which will redevelop the White Rocks site.

Land bought by university in 2013

The land which will be granted on an “emphyteutical lease” is owned by UoM. The property, which previously housed the Calamatta garden centre, was purchased from two owners, the first in February 2013, the other in May 2013. 

The property sale was financed through the UoM’s own financial resources.

An application to develop the same land as a students’ residence had already been presented in 2003 by Charles Vella but was later withdrawn.

Asked how the university will benefit financially from the project, the university’s spokesperson replied that the emphyteutical deed and related agreements will result in a financial inflow, “which is higher than that which would have resulted had the project been undertaken by the Univerity of Malta itself”. 

Height of residence pegged to hospital’s

Asked about the building heights which are being proposed in the planning application, which range from two to 14 floors, the university spokesperson replied that the project is based on a development brief which specifies that the  height on the Mater Dei side should not exceed the height of the hospital building, and the development will slope down so that on the University side the height of the development will not be higher than the Gateway Building.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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